Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Big Ten's Five Best Gameday Traditions (Dan Wines)

5.)  The Key Jingle - Northwestern
 Let's be honest, Northwestern's football team gets about as much attention as the WNBA.  They range from mediocre to bad nearly every season and for the casual fan, the Northwestern game tends to be the one you skip when your favorite team plays them.  The Key Jingle finishes fifth on this list because of the team's relative anonymity, but it makes the list because it is everything you want in a college football "tradition."  Northwestern students, and presumably other Wildcat fans, take their car keys out and jingle them in unison.  The idea is, win or lose, your grads will park our cars someday.  For what they lack in athleticism, Northwestern students make up for in arrogance  and creativity. 
  This tradition is certainly less popular than some that I will leave off of this list, but the fact that a team that seldom wins has still found a way to taunt the opposition is something I just can't ignore.

4.)  Sparty Watch / Michigan Diag - Michigan State & Michigan

  While not the biggest in the Big Ten, the in-state rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State is intense.  It's been known divide families a few times a year, trust me.  Sparty Watch (or Sparty Guard) and the protection of the brass block M in the Michigan Diag is a tradition similar to those many of you experienced against rivals in high school.  Each year, during the week of the Michigan/Michigan State game, students at each school stand guard over their respective insitution's iconic locale to prevent it from being painted rival colors before the game.  Students take pride in their universities, and having a logo, statue, or mascot defaced is akin to being sucker punched in the gut. 

3.)  Kinnick Stadium's Pink Locker Rooms - Iowa

  This one is perhaps best stated by it's creator, former Hawkeye head coach, Hayden Fry.  "One thing we didn't paint black and gold was the stadium's visitors locker room, which we painted pink. It's a passive color, and we hoped it would put our opponents in a passive mood. Also, pink is often found in girls' bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color."  I considered ranking this number one on the list, but I question its effectiveness.  There is no question, however, that this idea pisses off opponents before they even hit the field. 
  This tradition is not without controversy, as the visitor's locker rooms have come under fire for being demeaning towards women (absurd) and inappropriate.  As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the better traditions in college football.

*Note - While Iowa's pink locker rooms receive the most attention, they're not alone in this practice.  Visitors to Wisconsin are greeted by a paint scheme that is referred to as prison blue - just what you want to hear before 75 guys get together in a communal shower.

2.)  Script Ohio - Ohio State

Fans of the Buckeyes often claim to have "The Best Damn Band In The Land," and rightfully so.  Since 1936, Script Ohio has been a tradition prior to every OSU home game.  The band, which is in excess of of 220 members, marches and weaves its way into spelling out Ohio.  As icing on the cake to this tradition, one member of the band and occasionally honorary guests, perform the task of "dotting the I" at midfield.  Whether you love Ohio State or hate them, the Buckeye band's Script Ohio is something that should be applauded.  It's an impressive feat.  While the idea was originally presented to Ohio State by the University of Michigan in 1932 as a gesture of sportsmanship, it has been perfected and animated by OSU's marching band.

Script Ohio is just one example of the talent that is present on the field when the players are in their respective locker rooms.  Many of the marching bands in the Big Ten have traditions of their own and are among the nation's best, but OSU's tradition is the most widely recognized.  Unfortunately, because we live in a commercial culture, the marching bands are typically left off of telecasts.  If you want to see some of the best pageantry in college football, buy a ticket, show up early and stay in your seat at halftime.  These bands are good.

1.)  The White Out and Jump Around - Penn State and Wisconsin

These two traditions finish tied atop the list because of their relative similarity.  It is no secret that a night game at Beaver Stadium or Camp Randall is a hostile environment, and these two traditions amplify that fact exponentially.

The White Out is a Penn State tradition made popular during a night game against Ohio State in 2005.  A raucous crowd dressed almost entirely white clothing was on their feet from beginning to end in a 17-10 Nittany Lions victory.  Since then, the White Out has become a tradition during Penn State night games, and while it hasn't been wildly successful recently, it is a sight to behold.  A crowd of 107,000 noisy fans in all white under the lights has become as synonymous with Penn State football as Joe Paterno and his 46 pound glasses.

On the western end of the Big Ten's geographic spectrum, Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the country.  Adding to the hostile environment is the tradition of piping "Jump Around" by 90's rap group House of Pain in between the third and fourth quarter of every home game.  If you've ever witnessed the Cameron Crazies jumping in unison during Duke basketball games, multiply it by four and put it outside.  While the tradition is most common in the student section, it isn't uncommon to see someone's grandmother drop her pretzel and jump to the song.  People who've been there say you can feel the stadium shake, and watching it on tv I have no trouble believing that. 

Both of these traditions are in their infancy compared to some of the others listed, but their impact on the overall game experience is unrivaled.  It's exciting to see and something that the fan bases take great pride in.
Traditions like these listed, along with the countless others that didn't survive my cut, are as essential a part of college football as the pigskin, the goal posts, and the teams themselves.  Without them, college football wouldn't be the event that it is.  As these traditions further cement themselves in the legacy of each institution, rest assured that as the next generation of college football fans find their way onto campus, new traditions will be added to the list.  If those new ones have anywhere near the impact that some of these do, I can't wait to see them.


  1. Great Article - Best one yet of this series!

  2. I agree with your choices! Another great article! Thank you